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Closing the Gender Gap: How the Middle East is Building an Inclusive Tech Ecosystem

By March 14, 2024No Comments
Women in tech in the Middle East | inclusive tech

The Middle East technology industry is booming, but historically, the sector has struggled with gender disparity, with women traditionally underrepresented in tech roles. A staggering report states that the Middle East and North Africa lose $575 billion every year due to a lack of female participation in the economy. 

In the Face of Adversity  

‘The Women in MENA Tech’ survey by Wired suggests:

  • 32% women experience discrimination regarding a position or designation 
  • 69% feel that gender stereotypes have negatively affected their work
  • 2 out of 5 women experience some form of salary discrimination
  • 41% feel that marriage hinders a career in tech

Societal expectations and unconscious bias remain lingering obstacles for women in the region. Traditional gender roles can continue to discourage women from pursuing tech careers, and unconscious bias can lead to women being overlooked for promotions or leadership roles.

Thankfully, the narrative is gradually shifting as women are increasingly making their mark on the Middle Eastern tech landscape. 

Encouraging Signs of Progress

With 57% of STEM graduates now women in the Arab world and the UAE boasting an even higher rate of 61%, the tide is turning for women in tech. This talent pool is translating into action, with 34% of tech startups in the region having female founders. 

Initiatives Supporting Women in Tech in the Middle East

The lack of female participation meant the tech industry missed out on a vast pool of talent and diverse perspectives. However, the tide is turning, and women are now actively shaping the future of tech in the Middle East. Government initiatives, corporate support, and voluntary efforts toward increasing the presence of women in the Middle Eastern tech industry have far-reaching positive implications.  

  • Governmental Policies and Initiatives

Saudi Vision 2030 is a groundbreaking initiative to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy and society, focusing on empowering women in the workforce. As part of the initiative, women are actively encouraged to pursue STEM programs to bridge the gender gap in these industries. Scholarships, training programs, and mentorship opportunities are provided to support women in acquiring the necessary skills and qualifications for IT careers.

  • Non-Profit Organizations & Community Driven Efforts 

WOMEN IN TECH®- Global Movement is a non-profit organization on a mission to empower 5 million women and girls in tech by 2030. Their UAE-specific activities include networking events, mentorship programs, and skill-building workshops to help women excel in technology-related careers and shape the future of the tech industry in the UAE and beyond. 

ArabWIC is another non-profit organization that supports and inspires collaboration and increases the visibility and status of Arab women in computing, enabling them to achieve their career aspirations. 

All Girls Code is a volunteer-led initiative directed at empowering young females in STEM in the MENA region with tech-immersive programs including internship programs, a variety of events, and the Techsplore summer program.

To further bolster the presence of women in the technology field, LEAP – a leading tech event organizer based in Saudi Arabia – has featured a dynamic ‘Women in Tech’ program packed with investment, networking, and entrepreneurial mentorship opportunities, as well as a dedicated startup award, in its 2024 tech summit. 

  • Corporate Programs

Google offers various initiatives to support talented women in technology in the region, including the Generation Google Scholarship (EMEA), which pledges to award 7,000 EUR to female students pursuing computer science degrees in the 2024-2025 academic year. Additionally, their Women Techmakers program provides resources and community for women in the tech field, offering scholarships for studying abroad at accredited institutions. 

Alongside, Microsoft’s Women Think Next initiative hosts networking events for senior-level professional women in technology. They also foster a Women in Technology community, connecting women within the Microsoft ecosystem.

Notable Women Techstars in the Middle East 

  • Fatima Zada

As the Acting CTO of Majid Al Futtaim (an integrated lifestyle provider with brands across industries such as shopping malls, hotels, cinemas, hypermarkets), Zada, along with company CEO Ahmed Galal Ismail, drives the group’s malls’ omnichannel transformation to enable customers to shop both online and offline. 

Zada’s focus is on transforming the value proposition and updating the business model for the malls to survive in the digital area in a sustainable and profitable way.

  • Shereen Fahmy

With a remarkable journey of 25 years in IT as an engineer, architect, consultant, and CTO, Shereen Fahmy was featured as one of the 50 Technology Leaders in the Middle East by Engati publication. 

With a keen eye on renewable energy, decarbonisation, and sustainability, Fahmy is driven by the vision of bringing tech thought leadership and making an effective impact on business plans and technology solutions. 

  • Kasia Poleszak

Kasia Poleszak has over 15 years of international & multicultural experience across varied industries. Currently operating as the Global Head of Tech Risk at PayU, she is transforming PayU tech risk management from reactive to proactive by formalizing and standardizing risk practices across all businesses. 

Back in 2015, Kasia co-founded Chapter Zero Singapore – a social enterprise that supports parents of young children in respectful/mindful and evidence-based parenting.

  • Mariam Khafagy

With an educational background in Renewable Energy Engineering (MSc) and Chemical Engineering and Engineering Management (BSc), Mariam Khafagy is now the Regional Director Customer Success Management at GfK – An NIQ Company. With a focus on digital transformation, strategy development and customer experience optimization, she drives the gfknewron team offering clients insights from the latest AI-powered platform. 

In an interview with Edge Middle East, she highlights a striking fact that in the Middle East, funding for female-founded start-ups represents less than 10% of the region’s venture capital funding. She goes on to mention “Having more women in technology will lead to more creative solutions, better products, and a more equitable society.” 

Closing Thoughts

The rise of women in the Middle Eastern tech industry is a testament to their talent, determination, and growing momentum for inclusivity. On the other hand, by actively dismantling societal barriers and promoting women participation, the Middle East can solidify its position as a global innovation hub, driven by the brilliance of its entire workforce. 


[Data Source: miscellaneous]

Authored by Soumi Bhattacharya

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